We are taken aback that President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointment of Hajia Amina Zakari as the Acting Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission .The appointment from every indication was done so hastily that Nigerians wondered whether there was any motive behind the intervention given the timing and the peculiar nature of events in the polity since the last general elections.
As he bowed out of office last Tuesday, immediate past INEC chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega handed over the office to Chairman of INEC Tenders Board, Ambassador Ahmed Wali. But that was not to be for it was only a matter of four hours after and the presidency preferred that Zakari heads the electoral commission in an acting capacity.
We are not unaware of the mutual suspicion and subdued angst among top management colleagues at INEC in the months leading to Professor Jega’s exit from office. Intense politicking amongst several antics was employed by the national commissioners all with the sole agenda of impressing the out gone chairman to recommend one of them to succeed him.
We may not be privy to the indices that threw up Ambassador Wali as Professor Jega’s preferred successor. Was he the most senior among the remaining commissioners at INEC? Did he possess some special qualities that positioned him for such a huge national task?
Before Nigerians could find answers to the above and other questions, the presidency ousted Ambassador Wali and replaced him with Zakari.
On the one hand, we note that not a few Nigerians, especially politicians are happy with the manner of the intervention, the timing and the beneficiary at the end of the day. On the other hand, we fear that the presidential actions will create bad blood among fellow commissioners with the potentials of splitting them into camps for and against the replacement of Ambassador Wali with Hajia Zakari.
Already the media is awash with alleged relationship between President Muhammadu Buhari and Hajia Zakari. The same INEC acting chairman is being linked to a certain governor in a north eastern state. What such a development portends for our democracy especially with several elections petitions tribunals still sitting is better left to the imagination.
The prompt reaction of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP on the above speaks volumes.
At a press meeting after its weekly National Working Committee meeting yesterday, the party said apart from the fact that appointment of INEC’s Acting National Chairman did not follow due process, the lady is manifestly biased in favour of APC and she is close acquaintance of the president.
The party said it was particularly disturbed by the development in INEC where President Buhari, who knew all along that the immediate-past INEC Chairman would be leaving office by June 30, had to wait for him to handover to one of the national commissioners only to reverse it immediately, thereby injecting bad blood in the commission.
It added that the situation in INEC since the PDP government of former President Goodluck Jonathan reformed and granted it operational autonomy has been peaceful, but that Tuesday’s untidy overruling of Prof. Jega and appointing of Mrs. Amina Zakari as acting chairman which, the party stressed, was influenced by personal relationship with the Presidency and one of the new governors of the North West, would pave the way for the APC at the electoral tribunals. The PDP said this would erode public trust in the commission. As a result, it has rejected the appointment of Zakari.
Herein lies our fear that until the Zakari saga is revisited and addressed, and promptly too, its snowball effect on political developments that are to come, could be very telling and negatively too. We urge the president to immediately reverse his Tuesday night decision on Zakari as acting chairman of INEC so as to assure local and international community of his neutrality in the affairs of the commission.